By Stefanos Evripidou
AGREEMENT on the fundamental issues of the Cyprus problem could be reached within a few months if the two sides are clear on what they are negotiating towards, said Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis yesterday.
In an interview with Cyprus News Agency, Mavroyiannis laid out the government’s thinking on the latest peace efforts.
He argued that before the two leaders meet, the two sides needed to agree on the operating framework of the new process and the basis of the talks. He stressed that there must be “clear and tangible” results from the first meeting of the two leaders, President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.
October was a welcome milestone for starting the talks, as long as the necessary preparatory work referred to above was done, said Mavroyiannis.
The Cypriot diplomat said no programme of meetings had been scheduled between him and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Osman Ertug yet but that he would make himself available at any time.
“The coming weeks are quite critical. Things are not easy but I am optimistic that we can succeed. And the more clear the result of the first meeting of the leaders, the better for all of us,” he said.
On the format of the talks, the Greek Cypriot negotiator favoured taking a holistic approach to the talks, not a piecemeal discussion, going chapter by chapter, since the issues at play are interconnected.
Mavroyiannis argued that all issues should be put on the table for discussion, noting that the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team wants to negotiate on issues it believes it has something to gain and refuses to negotiate on issues where it feels it has something to give.
“This situation cannot continue forever.”
He hoped that the Greek Cypriots would be able to convince their interlocutors that real progress could be made if everything was put on the table as they too have things to gain. It’s not just about extracting concessions from the Turkish Cypriots, said Mavroyiannis.
He noted however that so far the two sides had “big difference in our approaches”.
A way needs to be found to come closer so that a meeting of the two leaders could be well prepared, otherwise there was no point in Eroglu and Anastasiades meeting, he argued.
On past convergences, he said: “Everything is at our disposal… We are talking about free negotiations that will lead to an acceptable outcome at a referendum.
“We have from time to time come up with various decorations, but the tree is missing. A solution must be cohesive, it needs a strong trunk.”
Regarding Turkish Cypriot efforts to lock in a timeframe for the end of talks, he said: “We do not accept that there will be this timeframe which acts like a guillotine. In other words, when you get there, you stop. It feels suspect and leads one to the think that those who support this line have something else in mind.”
He added: “We believe there is no plan B that is implementable. We want to sit at the table, discuss seriously, day and night if possible, to solve the problem.”
Asked how long it might take, he said: “As soon as possible,” assuming the result will be the existence of a functioning European state.
“I don’t believe we need more than a few months to come up with something, at least on the fundamental issues.”
Asked to comment on whether Turkey had shown any change in approach, Mavroyiannis noted some indications that Turkey has a slightly different and more positive approach to a solution.
“They look a little more willing to act to see if something can be done,” he said.
Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos confirmed on Tuesday that Greece had agreed to accept a visit by Ertug in Athens on the request of the Cyprus government. In exchange, Mavroyiannis will be invited to Ankara.
Anastasiades has long called for opening a direct line of communication with Turkey, which he argues, holds all the cards and can ultimately decide whether to play ball or not.
Former Eroglu aide, Kudret Ozersay, yesterday said the proposal for mutual visits by the leaders’ aides to Athens and Ankara was raised in Geneva in 2011 by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
On a social media site, Ozersay said former president Demetris Christofias shied away from giving a positive answer to Ban’s proposal, and asked for more time to think about it.
At the time, the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team accepted the proposal as long as the two representatives were accepted on an equal status.
Meanwhile, addressing the 68th UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Turkish President Abdullah Gül called on the international community to urge the Greek Cypriots to engage in “result-oriented and time-framed negotiations in good faith”.
“Those who must solve this question are the Turks and Greeks of Cyprus…they must start negotiating as soon as next month with no ifs or buts,” he said, adding, “The settlement of the Cyprus question is essential to a stable and peaceful Eastern Mediterranean.”